Confirmed sighting: Brannigans Roast Beef and Mustard/ Blue Diamond Jalapeno Smokehouse Almonds
Posted: 09:28 Sun 13-Sep-2009. Price: 60p. Location: Millennium News, Leicestershire. Nutritional unusualness: 65% Less Saturated Fat.
No sign as yet of Tyrrells' new range of British flavours, or even Burts' Golden Mile, though Zeddy paid £1.39 for these Blue Diamond Jalapeno Smokehouse Almonds in Sainsbury, East Kilbride ("Nice and smokey with a good kick of chilli to follow. Almonds always seem classier than peanuts to me.
Limited range at Sainsbury's but their site shows a few varieties".) This week's headliner, however, comes from "Nick T", who starts off quoting Andy Williams as he inquires: Where do I begin, to tell the story of how great a love can be?
Statistics which I've just made up prove that I am the world's biggest fan of Brannigans. Since the late '80s they have provided both emotional support and my own personal benchmark in crisp-based entertainment, but have been increasingly hard to find. In my small town one pub and three shops used to stock them. Now, tragically, we're down to one independent newsagent. So with the nights drawing in, pub prices spiralling ever upwards, and the telly offering little above The Fat-Tongued One taking his tired old Mockney act to the unsuspecting Americans, what a delight it was to read that United Biscuits (UB) were relaunching Brannigans. Thank you Lord, my evenings are complete.
To give some back story, UB have a chequered reputation as serial up-stuffers of brands and they missed another plum opportunity this year by neglecting to buy the bankrupted Golden Wonder off Tayto. An icon of my youth, no rain-battered Summer holiday in the tundra-like resorts of North Wales was complete without me sitting in my dad's Ford Pop reading the 1968 AA Book Of The Road whilst clutching a Vimto and a bag of Golden Wonder with its Tam o'Shantered character logo. Yet fast forward 40 years and poor old wallflower Golden Wonder gets passed over again in favour of all-but-invisible brand Wheat Crunchies, of all things. Will no-one take on the Walkers behemoth? I certainly can't see Tayto doing it, and I'm too lazy.
So will UB or its bitch KP Snacks now put some serious marketing mojo behind Brannigans? Will it have the confidence to allow the brand to stand alone again and not just as a sad afterthought on the McCoy's website? Is that American actor illustrated on the packets even still alive?
The revamp has said goodbye to the gold foil packet, to be replaced by their old skool "paper style" (*cough* that'll be plastic then) bag, and sadly the recipe has changed too. The crisps themselves are still reformed potato but have given up pretending otherwise: they are now simple pale blank discs. The distinctive dusty texture is still there but they're definitely less salty and that critical lip-tingling mustard tang has been toned right down. The packet size also suffers from The Wagon Wheel Effect, i.e. where the manufacturers say it's not getting smaller, but you know darn well it is.
You know the old saying about "if it ain't broke" etc? Well I only wish Brannigans' brand manager knew it too.
Confirmed sighting: Walkers Jamaican Jerk Chicken 'New Limited Edition' crisps
Posted: 09:38 Mon 31-Aug-2009. Price: £1.01/93p for multipack of 6 x 25g. Location: Sainsbury's, St Andrews Square, Edinburgh/ Sainsbury's, Islington. Nutritional unusualness: 8.2g of fat, of which 0.6g is saturated, and 1.1g of sugar per pack.
Apparently McCoy's are bringing back their Pub Grub range in the form of Lamb and Mint or Roast Beef and Horseradish varieties, and parent company United Biscuits are also relaunching Roast Beef and Mustard Mr Brannigan's . But those awaiting the answer to whether "Phill and Sharon" ever found anything to eat in Edinburgh will have to be content with the news that they found these Jamaican Jerk Chicken Walkers "whilst popping into Sainsbury's for something for dinner. Apparently they're exclusive to Sainsbury's. Only saw them in multi-bags."
...For more on the actual flavour, I refer you to either "Magnetic Ham Sandwich" or today's picture-provider "Nigel D", who "can only presume that Walkers are trying to hang on the coat tails of the current Levi Roots/Reggae Reggae Sauce inspired fad for 'Caribbean' flavours. Anyway, these were actually very pleasant. Opening the pack the aroma was reminiscent of Nice 'n' Spicy Nik Naks, though somewhat milder."
"My initial reaction to the flavour was that there were hints of Walkers' attempt at Onion Bhaji flavour earlier in the year. However, as I worked my way through the bag the overall flavour was very similar to standard Roast Chicken but a bit more lemony. Quite how this taste came from a set of flavourings including chilli, ginger and thyme I'm not sure, but I'm not going to worry myself over the mystery."
"Overall, the flavour was pretty good and there was a nice fizz of spice on the tongue. These were better than any of the 'Give Us A Flavour' offerings and if I had my way, Walkers would keep making these rather than the Builder's Breakfast malarkey."
Confirmed sighting: Pringles Xtreme
Posted: 14:22 Sun 23-Aug-2009. Price: 77p. Location: Morrisons, Leicester. Sub-flavours: Exploding Cheese and Chilli [tested]; Flamin' Chilli Sauce; Fiery Wasabi; Smokin' Ribs.
"Nick T" reports: What is it about 'extreme'? It's either extreme "sports" in which one person ties a piece of elastic to their leg and pays another person to push them off a bridge, or it's extreme bodybuilding in which narcissistic body fascists smeared in fake tan and baby oil pump themselves full of drugs in a bizarre quest to resemble a badly stuffed settee and weigh 18 stones; something which I've also achieved with far more enjoyment and a lot less pain simply by reviewing snacks for this very site.
And now we have the previously US-only 'Xtreme Exploding Cheese and Chili', fresh from Pringles, themselves fresh from a ruinously-expensive battle with HM Customs and Revenue over the definition of a crisp. 'You might need a fire extinguisher!' scream the graphics on the garish fluorescent tube (which I notice is even less full than usual), so with trembling hands I bequeathed my scrapbook of empty crisp packets to the family, cranked up The End on the iPod, popped in a Pringle and waited for my tear-stained demise...
Yep, still here. Fire extinguisher remains unused, scrapbook back in the vault. It's that extreme thing again isn't it? So many brands boast it yet they're really nothing of the sort. Granted these are quite pleasant with a tangy frisson, reasonable cheese flavour and Pringles' usual smack of lip-coating clammy cold fat, but they're about as edgy and dangerous as Perry Como. Maybe their other new variant 'Flaming Chili Sauce' is hotter but if Procter and Gamble really want to turn around their recent plummeting sales, I doubt these will do it. So friends, until truth in advertising is made compulsory, seekers of truly spicy snacks will need to content themselves with the triumphant Nando's Smokey BBQ.
...Top money-saving by "Nick T" here, as "Phill and Sharon" say they spent £2.15 on the (hotter, but less imaginative) Flamin' Chilli Sauce flavour in Sainsbury's, St Andrews Square, Edinburgh, while "in Sainsbury's looking for something for dinner. They also had 'Smokin Ribs flavour'. If I'd have noticed the price before buying them I'd have not bothered. After looking online I also found that 'Exploding Cheese and Chilli' and 'Fiery Wasabi' are also available, but I didn't see them."
Confirmed sighting: Walkers Doritos iD3
Posted: 11:46 Sun 09-Aug-2009. Price: £1. Location: Morrisons, Leicester. Nutritional unusualness: "Contains mystery spicy flavour".
"Julian Cirrone" was actually first to spot this, but didn't send a pic so ended up in the comments - anyway, over to "Nick T": There are some things in this crrrrazy snack world that will always remain secret. The recipe for Irn-Bru for instance, the contents of Wall's sausages, and what makes that gag-reflex inducing smell when you open a bag of peanuts in a pub. But here we have an interesting concept: a new Doritos flavour where you're left to guess what the flavour is. Well you don't HAVE to, but there's a chance of winning £20,000 if you get it right so I'd recommend you give it a shot.
Even before I tried them I wondered if Walkers were trying for a flavour but, with an admirable show of honesty, decided they couldn't pass it off so just gave up. I mean, can we talk? Let's face it, how many crisp flavours actually taste of what they claim to be? Prawn Cocktail anyone? Mmmmmmmmmmmm... no. Steak and Onion? Hardly. Hedgehog crisps? I'll take your word for it. Some of you may even be old enough to remember Tudor's creditably imaginative range of flavours, but none of which in all honesty tasted of what it said on the packet.
As for these iD3 thingies, they're nice. The dominant flavour is of cumin and salt with an aftertaste of celery and paprika. It's almost as if the factory had too much Onion Bhaji and Cajun Squirrel flavourings left over after the Do Us A Flavour campaign and decided to use them up in one shot (hmm...) The bag livery and stylised teasers seem inspired by those warm-up videos they play to the queues at theme parks, coupled with a heavy dose of 'Lock Stock'. This betrays their target market and given that you have to buy a bag to enter the competition, Walker's return on marketing investment is assured because the average yoof won't have a clue. No offence.
Anyway, the taste is a winner and very moorish (hint). You can pick up a generously-sized bag for £1 at Morrisons, and I heartily commend them to the house.
International sighting: Lay's Natural and Warm Mango Flavour crisps
Posted: 12:38 Sun 12-Jul-2009. Price: 3 RMB (about 25p). Location: Huang Shan City, China. Sub-flavours: Blueberry, Cucumber, Lychee, Lime, Cherry Tomato. Nutritional unusualness: 16.2g carbohydrate, 9.2g fat, 2g protein per 30g serving.
Here in the UK, all Walkers can manage are
ManGo-Karting Chutney and "mystery flavour" Doritos but, in one of our all-too-rare sightings from Asia, "dastra" reports: Saw these in the supermarket whilst hunting for edible snacks and knew I had to try them. The first taste that hits you is potato, and the aftertaste is sort of a mango flavour ice cream. But in the middle. WOAH. A sort of Camembert cheesy, fruity medley of a taste sensation - the waves of flavour just keep on coming. The smell that lingers once eaten is that of a fine, old cheese. An experience not to be repeated, though am tempted to return for the Blueberry flavour...
...While, in other foreign finds: "Chocolate, Fruits and Creme, Tangy Tropical, Berry Explosion, Double Sours, Skittles Bubblegum, and Crazy Cores (two flavours in one)," were among the
many different types of Skittles tracked down by "Jamie Campbell" in Toronto, Canada; and, for drinkers so far unable to locate the likes of Heineken Desperados or WKD Core, there's just a hint of press-release speak (plus a suspiciously professional picture) to "Hannah's" news regarding Ibiza Ice, namely: "I drank this sparkling wine cocktail in Ibiza and it's so nice, both flavours are lovely! It's lower calories than a glass of wine and is served really nicely over ice with fruit. I got fed up with everywhere selling cocktails and champagne is quite expensive so this was perfect! Apparently it's coming over to the UK in September, can't wait!"
International sighting: Tayto Velvet Crunch
Posted: 10:10 Sun 28-Jun-2009. Price: 75c (but in a shop that over-charges for things). Location: Dublin, Ireland. Sub-flavours: Cheddar Cheese and Spring Onion flavour. Nutritional unusualness: Tapioca flour is the main ingredient, cassava the second, sugar the third.
"kilburina" reports: I found these on a quest to fill in the gap between morning tea and a late lunch with something savoury. It's a "new snack [...] inspired by the Brazilian Cassava plant - the perfect low carbohydrate alternative to the potato" so one for the girls, I suppose since we are those who are foolish enough to buy crisps on a quest to a lower fat diet rather than eat less or choose an apple. Or perhaps I am being sexist. They were very nice, actually. Quite like Snax potato puffs but I think they are also by Tayto so not available in the UK. Sad really. They had a good strong cheese and onion flavour that lingers but make sure you shake the packet to distribute it evenly 'cos otherwise the sweetness (a result of sugar being the 3rd ingredient) is the foremost taste. Anyway, I'd buy them again.
...Cheers "kilburina" - while, continuing a month of first-time sightings, "Dave Hodgkinson" paid 70c for these Lays Sensations, Cream of Mushroom flavour in Alamada, Portugal, supplying the evocative detail that he: "Spotted these in a grimy cornershop at the base of an apartment block in Lisbon. First impression is a definite mushroom overtone and a deep inhalation gives quite an intense cream of mushroom soup essence, maybe one of those cubes you make soup from. From then on though, it's downhill. The overwhelming impressions is of very musty salt. Not a sensation."
Confirmed sighting: Pringles Gourmet Beef Burger flavour
Posted: 18:32 Sun 14-Jun-2009. Price: £1 (introductory offer, normally £1.55). Location: Morrisons, Sheffield, South Yorkshire.
Most of us will probably never know how these measure up to the USA's
Cheeseburger Restaurant Cravers Pringles, so it's straight over to the first-time sighting from "Heybunny", who reports: I spotted these in the local Morrisons at a £1 introductory price. They claim to be an "Exclusive Flavour" - the label says it is a "Roast Beef" flavour and I think it doesn't disappoint. It's easily my new favourite :)
...In other burger-related urgency: "There was a sighting posted re Hellman's burger sauce on this site a while back, apparently it tasted just like the sauce McDonald's use on their Big Macs," reminisced "JP", before revealing "Morrisons are doing a sauce which tastes exactly the same, it's their own brand burger sauce. Lovely stuff. Makes everything taste like a Big Mac!"
Or, if you're looking for something that tastes a bit less like one, McDonald's Great Tastes Of America 2009 lineup is an interesting remix of its previous summer 2008 and autumn 2007 incarnations - though at more than £3 for the burger alone, it faces tough transatlantic competition from KFC's £2.99 Tex Mex Wrapstar, complete with tomato tortilla, chilli salsa, sour cream and pepperjack cheese.
Confirmed sighting: Asda Extra Special Scottish Heather Honey BBQ crisps
Posted: 22:56 Sun 31-May-2009. Price: £1.22. Location: Asda, Leicester.
"Nick T" reports: It's difficult to imagine now quite how supermarket own brands have changed shopping over the past 30 years. Prior to their arrival, British purchasing habits revolved around solid, reliable, lump-in-the-throat British names: Huntley and Palmers. Brasso. Sturmey-Archer. Every housewife's wicker shopping basket was the more or less the same, and they always had been. But upstart supermarkets like Fine Fare and Tesco changed all that. Previously, if you wanted fish, you went to Mac Fisheries, but now you could go to the Co-op and buy their own brand, which you trusted just as much and cost less. At first own brands were cheap, in generic single-colour packaging. Now they cost only pennies off the big brand - and often cost more; sporting poncified names such as 'The Best' or 'Taste The Difference' or 'We Think You're Stupid Enough To Pay Even More For Quality Which You Should Have Expected To Begin With'.
I'm a sucker for that sort of scam, and happily picked up a bag of Asda 'Extra Special' Scottish Heather Honey BBQ crisps. Not English heather mind, nor Welsh, but definitely Scottish, perhaps from the bucolic bee-loud glades of verdant Castlemilk. Such provenance makes all the difference apparently, but not that you'd notice because they just taste like rather pleasant barbecue crisps with a distinct but anonymous sweetness to them. You can't identify what kind of barbecued meat Asda had in mind either, and maybe the liquorice extract is added to lend another Caledonian hint, this time of Irn-Bru. I'm a big fan of Tyrrell's Summer Barbecue flavour and these are similar in their fashionable overdone look, but the Asda flavour is more in-your-face, like smoke off a suitably carbonised burger. Together with their equally splendid (if a little on the bland side) Wensleydale and Fruit Chutney stablemate, Asda have been giving Sainsbury's a good run for their money in the own-brand snack arena lately and I'd happily recommend them at this price, even if the heather honey flavour came from a laboratory jar. Which I'm sure it didn't *cough*.
...Another penetrating critique from "Nick T" here - obviously the big crisp news of the moment is Walkers' latest
baffling new flavours, though specialists may be interested to hear that, as well as multipacks of Marmite Crisps, Unilever have also diversified into Marmite Oven Baked Cashews (£1.69/90g, Sainsbury), addressing the potential problem of the Marmite drowning out the subtly-flavoured cashews via the ingenious measure of... hardly making them taste of Marmite at all!
Confirmed sighting: Walkers Doritos Flamin' Cheeseball/ Pizza Express Leggera range
Posted: 19:35 Sun 10-May-2009. Price: Special offer, £1.00 (otherwise £1.49); 225g. Location: Tesco.
I'm not sure if this is the same "Fishface" who left a couple of comments here about 6 years ago, but he/she didn't have much to add about the Flamin' Cheeseball Doritos, other than: "Taste like a combination of Flamin' Hot and Nacho Cheese. Still bright orange."
The Pizza Express Leggera range, "Fishface" continues, costs £7.95-£8.90 for a Margherita Leggera, Vitabella, or Gustosa, and comprises: "A pizza with a hole in the middle, which is filled with salad! 'The hole at the centre of each Leggera (Light) pizza is filled with a tasty salad of baby spinach, rocket, and santos tomatoes, finished with a drizzle of our light dressing.' Not too sure if any of these will tempt me away from their Classic menu..."
...Either way, both sound like a better bet than the
Golden Wonder Sausage and Tomato flavour that "Jack 'The Whack' Harding" says he found in Cardiff, reporting: "I saw these in Home Bargains a few weeks ago. I had them and they tasted of tomato ketchup and stunk of sausages. It wasn't very pleasant. I don't recommend these to anyone who does not like tomato ketchup. Really, it's just Walkers Tomato Ketchup in another packet."
And back with cheese-like coverings: KFC is taking on McDonald's Ranch Snack Wrap and Little Western with Paninis: The Gourmet Lunch (in Spicy Chicken or Italian Chicken, £3.49) - obviously there's a debate over the correct plural, but I'd also like to hear opinions on Sainsbury's current use of "antipasties", which sound like what you have before (or instead of) Cornish pasties?
Confirmed sighting: Walkers Sensations Buffalo Mozzarella and Herbs
Posted: 21:43 Tue 21-Apr-2009. Price: £1. Location: Asda, Leicester. Nutritional unusualness: No buffalo were harmed in the making of this snack.
Another extended crisp contribution today, so it's straight over to "Nick T": If you're old enough to remember walking into Woolworths - if you're old enough to remember Woolworths, that is - and spending your pocket money on a Top Of The Pops compilation LP, you'll know the clanging disappointment when you skip home and realise it's not a bargain containing all the current teen chart-toppers at all, it's a bunch of 40-something session musicians gamely but hopelessly imitating your pop heroes. It's that cheek-slapping dawn of bitter realisation which will also be familiar to anyone googling for archive photos of Michael Jackson only to be initially puzzled, then appalled, when the search returns pictures of a sparky little black lad with the same name. Sometimes, things just aren't what you expected.
And so it is with this latest addition to the Sensations (am I the only person unable to say the word "Sensations" without the disturbing image of Tony Blackburn saying it in his Smashy and Nicey voice?) range. Open the attractive keenly-priced bag and you'll be welcomed by a pleasant whiff of herbs. Things are looking up. But pop one of these fragile, pale russet crisps in your mouth and the faint but unmistakable flavour is of... chicken. Hunh? Perhaps it's because mozzarella is too bland to use as a base flavour? A quick check of the ingredients and, despite the bizarre claim "Made With Real Ingredients" (as opposed to what?), things are actually better than you'd expect from Walkers Corp. There are authentic seasonings and flavourings in there, plus a few inexplicable additions such as dried pomegranate juice, skimmed milk, and that signature Walkers sweetness.
So you try another and, sure enough, there it is again in the background. Chicken. Well, chicken-flavoured crisps, anyway. No matter. I turn off my big-brand prejudices and scoff the rest of the bag contentedly. I can't see them being around for long but hey, they're worth a punt for a pound. Pondering on this odd taste swap, I am reminded of the French socialist philosopher Charles Fourier. I'm sure you are too. M. Fourier was a 19th Century Utopian who believed the seas would slowly lose their salt and finally taste of lemonade. And whilst I hope I'm not quite that batty, I do wonder if perhaps this is a precursor to a new Walkers cost-cutting stratagem: a gradual leaching out and blurring together of flavours to create one global homogenised McFlava, centrally controlled and marketed in endless variations of packaging? Pop pickers, you heard it here first.